A birth injury is any type of harm that a baby suffers during or near the time of their birth. In the medical field, a birth injury may also be called a birth trauma. A birth injury can be caused by many things, including premature birth, fetal oxygen deprivation, and medical negligence.
When defining a birth injury, it’s important to point out that a birth injury is not the same thing as a birth defect. The terms birth injury and birth defect are sometimes confused for one another and used interchangeably, but these two things are not the same. A birth defect is a health condition or illness that forms while an infant is still in the womb during the pregnancy process, while a birth injury is an injury that occurs during the labor or delivery process to an otherwise healthy baby. The key difference between a birth injury and a birth defect is that birth defects are already present before the birth, while a birth injury occurs due to the birth.
Birth injuries can be caused by Insufficient or improper medical care that occurs before birth, during birth, or shortly after birth. Some examples of medical negligence that can lead to birth injuries include:
Birth injuries can range widely in severity. A birth injury can be as mild as minor bruising or as severe as permanent brain damage. A newborn baby may recover from mild birth injuries, but can be left dealing with the consequences of more severe birth injuries for the rest of their life.
The signs and symptoms of a birth injury may appear immediately following the birth, but may sometimes not be evident until later in childhood. The symptoms of a birth injury can become more obvious as a child ages, either because they have begun to miss important developmental milestones or because they are more clearly showing physical signs of brain or nerve damage.
Some symptoms of a birth injury that may be seen immediately after delivery include:
Some symptoms of a birth injury that may be seen around 12 to 24 months in age include:
Some symptoms of a birth injury that may not be recognizable until after 2 years of age include:
Whenever the symptoms of a birth injury come to your attention, whether it’s right after birth or during your child’s toddler years, it’s important to seek medical care as soon as possible. Having birth injury symptoms does not always mean that a child has sustained a birth injury, as birth injury symptoms may overlap with the symptoms of other medical conditions. However, it’s important to seek medical treatment immediately when a child is showing signs of a birth injury so that a medical professional can provide prompt diagnosis and treatment. Treating medical issues early can help patients avoid complications, whether these medical issues are tied to a birth injury or another issue.
When a birth injury occurs due to medical negligence, the infant’s family may be able to recover damages for their losses. Generally, a family in a birth injury case can pursue economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are meant to compensate a family for their economic losses, such as their medical expenses. Non-economic damages are meant to compensate a family for their non-economic losses, such as their emotional distress. In California, non-economic damages are capped at $250,000 for medical malpractice cases, including those involving birth injuries. However, there is no maximum amount a family could receive for their economic losses.
In rare cases, the plaintiff in a birth injury case could be awarded punitive damages on top of other damages, such as their economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages are a type of compensation that is awarded by a judge to punish a defendant for particularly egregious behavior. If a judge rules that a defendant has acted with “oppression, fraud, or malice,” they may decide to award punitive damages to a plaintiff.